JAN. 15: Contact between the two sides has been “minimal” to this point, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. There is, of course, the possibility that talks will pick up steam in the days/weeks to come.
JAN. 14: The Blue Jays have carried interest in right-hander Yovani Gallardo throughout free agency, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), and the team has been in contact with Gallardo’s camp this week, he adds. As Nicholson-Smith further tweets, club president Mark Shapiro said just yesterday that Gallardo is “the kind of guy” that could help Toronto, although as Nicholson-Smith also notes, questions remain about the Jays’ willingness to spend and to part with the necessary draft pick to sign Gallardo.
For context, Shapiro’s exact words when asked about Gallardo (in an appearance with Bob McCown and Arash Madani on 590 The Fan) were as follows: “He’s the kind of guy that would make us better. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to have. Whether or not, from a resource perspective, we still have enough to make a move like that — that’s still a variable that exists, but we do have some flexibility still. Thinking about how we use those resources is still a question.” Asked about the draft pick attached to Gallardo, Shapiro said it is indeed a factor, but not one that would immediately close the door on a deal. Shapiro called the draft pick forfeiture a “premium you’re paying on top of the salary.”
While Shapiro is understandably vague when prompted about Gallardo specifically, it’s telling that the Jays have at least reached out to his representatives at Octagon quite recently. Toronto would seem to have a somewhat full rotation picture, on paper, though as Shapiro noted in the interview, a team is fortunate if it can get through a 162-game season only needing to rely on seven or eight starters, adding that often, more arms are necessary. So, while R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison are all in the mix– to say nothing of Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, who spent 2015 in the bullpen but were starters in the minors — there’s certainly room for more.
The question, then, as both Nicholson-Smith and Shapiro implied, is where exactly Gallardo’s asking price lies at this juncture. Toronto already has $95.75MM committed to the 2016 payroll, and that doesn’t include what currently projects to be Major League Baseball’s third-most expensive class of arbitration eligible players. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz pegged the Blue Jays’ arb class at $36MM in combined salaries — much of that coming from Josh Donaldson and newly acquired Drew Storen. And, while the Jays are reportedly receiving some cash considerations in the Storen trade as a means to offset the difference between his salary and that of Ben Revere, that sum shouldn’t total much more than $2MM (by MLBTR projections, it’d be $2.1MM). Those sums alone would bring Toronto to around $129.6MM in total payroll, not including league-minimum players to round out the roster and other expenses. It’s not unreasonable, then, to envision a scenario where the roster, as currently constructed, approaches or equals last year’s end-of-season payroll of $135MM.
As a result, the Blue Jays might need to get a bit creative if they’re to bring Gallardo into the fold. A backloaded contract would be one means of limiting the strain on 2016 payroll, and trading away another piece with a guaranteed salary or a notable arbitration projection could be another means of fitting Gallardo into the 2016 budget.
Of course, the Blue Jays will have competition for Gallardo’s services. The right-hander is one of the more desirable arms left on the free-agent market and has been connected to clubs such as the Royals, Orioles and Astros of late, although Jon Heyman reported yesterday (Twitter link) that the Astros were more focused on Ian Kennedy, leaving the Orioles and Royals as Gallardo’s primary suitors at the moment. While there’s no way to gauge the extent of Toronto’s interest, and the draft pick forfeiture/salary requirements do seem to make the Blue Jays a long shot, they seemingly must at least be considered on the periphery of the Gallardo market for the time being.